I recently had a friend reach out to me for some online training becoming a regular client of mine. This person will remain anonymous of course but I have permission to share what was said when we had our first consultation.
Whilst my client has always been at a great fitness level to me, she was concerned about her energy levels. Hitting 47 soon she was concerned that she was gaining excess body fat and her energy levels weren’t as high as they used to be. She had also plateaued with her fitness level and wanted to regain the buzz she always had for fitness with some guidance.
Whilst discussing where we were going with the sessions and her goals, an open and honest discussion revealed that over the past year she had increasingly drank wine of an evening after not regularly doing so in the past. Over the past week before the consultation 5 out of 7 nights she had consumed 2 glasses of wine.
I want to take the alcohol part of this consultation and reveal some facts about alcohol in this blog; which I believe is a major factor towards the negative effects my client was feeling.
If any of the above resonates slightly with you or you are simply interested then read on….
1- It is highly calorific and each calorie has zero nutritional benefit (or any health benefit for that matter).
At 7 kcal per gram, even one pint of beer a day (200kcal) is an additional 1400kcal a week. This is 5600kcal a month.
It takes 3500kcal to burn 1lb of body fat. Cutting down (or cutting OUT) alcohol is therefore a perfect way to reduce your calorie intake and therefore burn excess body fat.
2- When we drink alcohol our bodies use it as its primary source of fuel over other nutrients such as carbohydrates and fats.
As your body is desperate to get rid of the alcohol (poison) from your body it will select this as a primary source of fuel over the usual carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Unfortunately the excess calories from the other sources of food will then be stored as excess body fat. If you’re on a weight loss journey this is really not ideal as the alcohol tends to be on top of daily calorie intake ... resulting in a BIG calorie surplus. In other words, calories that you would have otherwise burnt, get stored as excess body fat.
3- Excess alcohol consumption can lead to what is known as alcoholic fatty liver.
The primary role of your liver is to act as the “filter” for any foreign substances that enter your body, such as drugs and alcohol. The liver also plays a role in the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. ‘Fatty Liver’ condition can damage your liver, affecting the way your body metabolizes and stores carbohydrates and fats. Changes in the way your body stores energy from food can make it very difficult to lose weight.
4- You WILL overeat!
Even the most die-hard fitness and health fanatic will have a hard time fighting the urge to dig in when intoxicated. (Guilty!)
Firstly whilst intoxicated, alcohol lowers inhibitions and can lead to poor decision-making in the heat of the moment — especially when it comes to food choices.
Whilst hungover your liver has worked overtime it has used up a lot of glycogen which is why we tend to crave carb and fat loaded foods the next day. This isn’t ideal as again, these foods are high in calories and therefore can put you into calorie surplus making it very difficult to lose weight.
5- Alcohol disturbs natural sleeping patterns.
A nightcap before bed may sound like a ticket to a good night’s rest but you may want to reconsider. Firstly if you re-look at the above points, in no way is your body “relaxed” by alcohol. If anything it is a stress on your body.
Research suggests that alcohol can lead to increased periods of wakefulness during sleep cycles. Sleep deprivation, whether from lack of sleep or impaired sleep, can lead to a plethora of health problems. A great book to read about these is “Why We Sleep, Matthew Walker” life changing!! As well as the many health issues surrounding sleep deprivation, studies have also suggested it causes an imbalance in hormones related to hunger, satiety and energy storage.
So..... quite a lot on alcohol! I’m not saying never drink, just be aware that it affects us in many ways! If you’re serious about losing excess body fat, these are all things to consider.
My client has reduced the nights she now has wine to 1-2. This is realistic, for now. My aim is to get her to reduce further as time goes on. I would never say give up completely; that is a decision she needs to make for herself. Consequently my client now has a tonne of extra energy and is smashing her fitness goals weekly! Proud!!
Personally I stated in January I was giving up alcohol for good. However, since then I have drank a few times. I am just highly, highly (annoyingly) aware of the effects on my body and hope to help others understand as well.
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I have been inspired by my 4th book of the year for this blog. It’s a deep one. Stay open minded though... Book is pictured above “Sapiens”.
One famous study by Daniel Kahneman (winner of a nobel prize in economics) asked people to recount a typical day, episode by episode. They had to evaluate how much they liked or disliked those moments. One thing he found was that with regards to the work involved in raising a child, parents experienced far fewer moments of joy to moments of drudgery. According to the results of the study it seemed that bringing up a child was rather unpleasant. However most of my parent friends would say being a parent is the best job in the world. I would definitely say this too but I am not for one moment saying it is easy. Do we hang onto the joyous moments more than the stressful? Or is it just important for the balance of our system to put a positive spin on situations?
Some scholars compare human biochemistry to an air conditioning system. It makes perfect sense. If we over heat physiologically, our body works to get the heat down. If we cool down too much, our body works to re heat to an optimal level. When we think about happiness this same entity will occur. When we are ecstatic, we soon come back down to base level. When we are low, our body soon comes back to a base level. You could argue, however that our base levels all differ.
If we won the lottery, landed our dream job and had children does that instantly equal happiness? There are some people in the world that live on less than a dollar a day, I have read articles and blogs that these people have been the happiest and most content that the writers have ever seen. These people may have to walk miles for fresh drinking water, they don’t have the educational systems and the health care systems that others are used to. I personally feel privileged and thankful that I have always had a roof over my head, I have never struggled to live each day, I have never been hungry, I have always had access to education, to fresh water and to a health care system. Does that instantly make me happy? When I get into a foul mood I have to shake myself out of it because look at the life I am living. I am of course very grateful. So, why are those in poverty sometimes the most happiest?
Expectation Vs Reality. I believe happiness is sapped as soon as we set expectations and they are not met. I have been sad, angry and frustrated about mundane and unimportant things throughout my life, even this morning! I feel terrible that I woke up feeling foul over something that is so petty and so ridiculous. This is because my own expectations may be high. Our expectations are highly subjective. Lets take one of the people living on a dollar a day. No access to social media, walks 3 miles a day for food and water, works long days and meal times are spent with family members, down time spent with the community playing games, dancing and sharing stories. Expectations of these people don’t tend to go beyond their village. They are content. There is no comparison, internally they are happy. Subjectively their expectations are met and therefore their chemical balance remains stable. Then lets take an example from a first world country. A teenage girl or boy, owns a smart phone, has access to social media, television, magasines. Instantly,
subjectively this persons’ expectations are high on their personal life, the way they look, the way people act, the activities they do, the places they eat, their holidays and other material possessions. Chances are that the expectations for this person are set slightly high and if they don’t reach that standard their chemical balance is continuously below their optimal level for happiness. I believe if we are more aware of this, it would help us. Money, dream jobs, holidays, material items and children (I believe) does NOT equal happiness. I absolutely believe it is the chemical balance.
Buddhism states that the root of suffering is neither a feeling of pain or sadness. It is the never ending and pointless pursuit of the ‘feeling’ of being happy. This can cause tension, restlessness and dissatisfaction. In this state even when a person experiences joy they are still not content for fear of losing that moment. They want it to stay, and intensify. Personally I have recently tried sitting, accepting and taking in the moment from time to time (I must do this more though). I have come to realise that the best feeling of happiness is when you sit and let things flow over you. Sitting, relaxing and accepting you are where you are and you are exactly where you should be really helps to create a good balance and contentment.
Moving to the other side of the world and experiencing very different cultures has really opened my mind to all of this. Someone put it really well recently.. as you grow older and more open minded you start to see more than just the trees (this is metaphorically- I haven’t turned into a tree hugger but of course if that helps others then fill your boots, who am I to judge!), then further down the line you start to see the bark, the life within the trees, everything that you never saw before.
What we as Brits expect to be ‘normal’ can be completely alien to someone else and vise versa. It is great to go somewhere open minded. If you close your mind off you could be missing out on so many experiences that open the mind further, that educate you and bring you a reason for a little more happiness. It may even help to balance out your body’s ‘air conditioning’ system !
Let me know your thoughts 😊
Disordered eating and Protein!
To me disordered eating is thinking that something is “bad”.
Nothing is bad to eat, just make sure that it fits into a balanced diet of fresh foods that contain as many micronutrients as you can get- the vitamins and minerals. These are the building blocks to our body.
However....if you’re heavily over weight these little teeny micronutrients are the LEAST of your worries! This post is for those that are out on a weight loss journey and currently under a carriage of promotion of all things FAD!! Weight loss supplements, tea, miracles, wraps... you need to shove that to one side because there really is nothing you can do other than create a negative energy balance to lose excess body fat, this is called being in a 'calorie deficit.
As a starting point, if you are out to lose excess body fat you need to work out your daily calorie expendature without gym sessions/runs/classes you attend. This will be based on what you do for work and in your spare time.
A PE teacher will have a higher energy expendature day to day than an office worker... a builder will have a higher energy expendature day to day than a bus driver. The builder and the PE teacher therefore may not need to actually add in many fitness sessions on top of their normal days to reach a calorie deficit!
At the basic level for weight loss I always advise to just worry about being under the calorie limit and not sweating the small stuff such as vitamins, minerals etc. These DO have their place, but basic weight loss...there really is no need to be concerned over it. Once you've got the basics out of the way is when you can start to focus in on those bits.
TRACK your food- that’s even better then you know exactly what you’re eating and if you are ending the day in a big deficit there is room for a sweet treat if you want one. 😀👍 You never need to restrict things you enjoy this way!
What you need to also ensure though is that you hit a good protein target. It is so important that you do if you want to lose excess body fat- this is the bad stuff...! If you don’t hit protein target you’ve a high chance of digging into your muscle mass as it is the protein that helps to maintain this... you don’t want this!
Side note- exercise is NOT important for fat loss- it is the calorie deficit!!! Therefore if you exercise you burn more energy ...simply meaning that you can eat more 🤗🤗🤗 (so it can help in some way of course!)
If you want to build muscle to create the “toned” look though- you need to exercise, fact!
Putting a load on the muscle will make it adapt to the load- it will get stronger 💪 that’s why I exercise 😉
Exercise also makes you feel amazing- so I am in no way telling you not to exercise just letting you know - it’s not essential for fat loss- the stuff you put into your body is!
If you would like to learn more about this is detail jump onto my next 10 Week Challenge where you can set your own calorie and protein goals, create realistic targets and learn how to live a healthy and balanced lifestyle, including all the “stuff” you enjoy but may think are “bad”.
PT, Teacher and Mum. Currently living in South East Asia. Thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
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